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Jaguar Land Rover aims for self-driving cars on any terrain

Autonomous Land Rovers could drive themselves on asphalt or dirt.

As quickly as self-driving car technology is improving, it's still near-useless off-road. What good is an autonomous SUV if it can't drive to your camping site? Jaguar Land Rover hopes to fix that. It's showing off research into all-terrain self-driving tech that would adapt to different surfaces. A mix of cameras, lidar, radar and ultrasonic sound would give vehicles a sense of what they're driving on, and adapt accordingly -- say, going slow and steady on a dirt road. They would plot 3D paths that account for not just the ground, but low-hanging tree branches and other obstacles that could wreck your ride. You might not risk getting stuck in the mud simply because you didn't know how to tackle a challenging ravine.

The system could get even better when cars are linked together. It produced an "off-road connected convoy" that has vehicles share not only their location, but minutiae like their suspension and wheel positions. If the lead vehicle gets stuck, the others could stop or change their course to avoid a similar fate. There's even talk of using this to plan automated safaris, where vehicles would slow down when you're likely to get a good photo.

As with some of Jaguar Land Rover's research projects, there's no definite timeframe for when you could expect to see this driverless off-roading in practice. With that said, it's easy to see the company treating this as a top priority: all-terrain transportation is Land Rover's bread and butter, and it doesn't want to be left by the wayside if and when self-driving tech is good enough to handle excursions beyond asphalt.